Gerardi Continues To Focus On Berlin’s Dilapidated Houses

Gerardi Continues To Focus On Berlin’s Dilapidated Houses

BERLIN – Several local eyesores are set to undergo major renovations thanks to a resident with a penchant for preserving historic homes.

As passersby have noticed, the once derelict apartment house at 202 Broad St. is in the midst of an extensive renovation. Its neighbor at 204 Broad St. will soon enjoy a similar fate. Both properties have been purchased by well-known Berlin resident Ernest Gerardi. Gerardi, a retiree whose career was in real estate with the Charles E. Smith Co., has spent the past decade buying old properties in town and fixing them up. He’s worked on more than a dozen so far.

“It’s kind of a fixation,” he said. “It improves the looks of the town.”

Dave Engelhart, the town’s planning director, said he was thrilled when he learned that Gerardi had purchased the two Broad Street apartment houses. He’s been fielding complaints about the properties since he joined the town staff more than three years ago. Concerns voiced by neighbors ranged from cars parked on the properties’ front lawns to ignored structural damage.

“Maintenance had been ignored for a long time,” he said.

Carol Rose, chair of the town’s historic district commission, says the houses were a problem for years. When she’d walk downtown from her home on Ann Drive, she’d cross the street to avoid passing too close to them.

“I was afraid to walk by those houses,” she said, recalling incidents in which police had visited the apartments.

After moving from South Point to Berlin several years ago, it didn’t take long for Gerardi to notice the poor condition of the two 1920s houses. When they were finally put on the market this year, he wasted no time in purchasing them.

“They were real eyesores for the town,” Gerardi said. “People in the community have been unhappy for a long time. They came on the market and I saw it as an opportunity to buy them and clean them up.”

He targeted the formerly red house at 202 Broad St. first, removing the kitchens, gutting the bathrooms and taking out most of the drywall. Wiring was checked, windows were replaced and new flooring is being installed. Gerardi is hoping the house, which consists of three apartments, will be ready to rent in the summer.

“It’s going to be very nice quality,” he said, “and we cleaned up the back yard and there’s ample parking so nobody will be parking on the front lawn.”

Next door, he’s just beginning work on the light blue apartment house.

“It will be totally gutted,” he said. “It’s in even worse shape.”

But he doesn’t plan to stop there. Gerardi also purchased the gray apartment house at 102 Bryan Ave.

“It’s a horrible piece of property,” Gerardi said, who believes he now owns three of what were the town’s four worst properties. “When we get done it’ll be an attractive piece of property.”

Rose can’t wait to see the finished products. She says Gerardi has made a habit of doing beautiful restorations in Berlin. She said a prime example was the way he’d redone the former Berlin Hardware, creating Si’Culi and Culver’s Antiques.

“To see him take these properties, when they’re ready to fall down, and work his magic, it’s wonderful,” she said. “He’s got a vision for what he wants to do and he wants it to be perfect.”

Rose pointed out that nice apartments would be in demand in Berlin, particularly as more jobs came to town with the eventual completion of the new cancer center at Atlantic General Hospital.

“I don’t think he’ll have a bit of trouble renting them,” she said.

As someone who was born and raised in Berlin, she appreciates Gerardi’s interest in saving old homes.

“For me, these are homes I knew when I was a child,” she said.

While Gerardi doesn’t have the memories of the town that she does, he values the individuality of historic buildings and enjoys the challenges of restoring them.

“I’ve been a do-it-yourselfer all my life,” he said. “I enjoy preserving old buildings. I think old buildings have more character.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.